This short story is a work of fiction. Any relation to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
The events and characters of this story are based on and the novel Watch The World Burn.
The gun felt heavy in her palm. She was terrified.
‘Why is this happening?’ She thought. ‘Why now? Why us? And where is he? Is he safe? Oh, God why?’ It became a chant, barely escaping her lips. “Why? Why? Why?”
Gravel shifted to her right, making her jump. People were walking closer. They were careful, not like the shuffling steps of them.
“We’ve got a survivor!” Someone said. It was a male voice. He sounded urgent.
She cowered lower into the wreckage of the car.
“Ma’am?” The person knelt down a few feet away.
She gripped the pistol tightly in both hands, aiming wildly at the figure.
A rustling sounded around her, several guns being leveled at her hiding place.
“Don’t come any closer. I’ll shoot!” She cried.
The figure swatted it away easily. “Don’t worry, we’re here to help.” He said.
“Yes, but you need to put your weapon down,”
A flashlight beam illuminated the figure from behind. She gasped at the sudden brightness, and shielded her eyes. She peeked out at him. He was in his mid-thirties, wearing camouflage pants and a matching long sleeved shirt under a heavy looking vest, pant legs tucked into light brown boots, hair hidden beneath a helmet. He was laden with guns and canisters.
She threw her pistol down, letting him slide it away from her, checking it before handing it to someone behind him.
“Who are you?” She asked.
“Special Forces, Ma’am,” He said.
“Like the military?”
He nodded. “You want to climb out of there?”
She slid out from under the twisted metal, looking around nervously. There seemed to be a whole team of them, but no sign of him.
“Do you need medical attention?” The mas asked, helping her to her feet.
She shook her head, still searching. “Did you find anyone else?”
The men looked behind them, at a body strewn across the pavement.
“Link!” She wailed, running to him.
She elbowed her way past the soldiers trying to stop her. Falling to her knees, she clung to the unmoving body of her boyfriend. She sobbed, holding tightly to him, praying he was all right.
“He’s gone!” One of the men growled, trying to pull her away.
She held on, unwilling to accept what she knew was true. It was too late. Lincoln had died saving her. She kissed his lips softly. They were cold.
It took three soldiers to pry her loose.
“Was there anyone else here with you?” The first soldier she had seen asked.
“It was just us. Then those . . . people came. He tried to fight them off while I hid.”
“Did they look sick?” The soldier who had first tried to pull her off Link asked, voice intense, eyes narrowed.
She nodded meekly.
“Were you bitten or scratched? Did you come into contact with their blood?” His fist tightened around the grip of his assault rifle.
“No,” She squeaked.
“Sir, we need to keep moving. There’s a safe location up ahead,” Another soldier said.
The first one seemed to be in charge, because when he motioned once with one hand, the others fell into formation.
“Stick close to me,” He said, catching the girl’s gaze.
They moved with starling precision, rapidly covering the distance between where they found her, and the cement building half a mile away, checking every corner; every car along the way.
People were already inside the building, which turned out to be an old gas station. They entered through the rear, which was promptly locked and sealed behind them. The soldiers spoke briefly with a couple people in a circle, then left out the front door, ordering her to stay behind.
They kept her gun. Not that she wanted it. Link had pulled it off of one of their attackers, forcing her to take it and hid while he used another gun to fight them off.
‘Rural America, where everyone has a gun,’ she mused. ‘At least it’s not like the city, where it’s mostly gangsters and criminals.’
“Are you ok?” Someone asked.
She started, looking around to see who had spoken to her. It was a woman, slightly older than she.
“I’m . . . fine.” She said.
“I’m Stephanie,” The woman said.
“I’m Steph,” She said, smiling slightly.
Stephanie returned the smile. “Come sit with me. I’ve got potato chips. We can talk,”
Steph followed her to the side of the room, where they sat in small fold out lawn chairs in front of the freezer.
“I’m staying away from the beer,” Stephanie said. “It’s safer,”
“I don’t know, people can get pretty rabid about their ice cream,” Steph replied, pointing her thumb at the shelves of ice cream behind them.
“That’s exactly why I picked out this spot,” Stephanie smiled brightly. “So why don’t you tell me what happened to you out there? You look like hell, and I know I’d want to talk about it if it were me. Help to make sense of it all,”
Steph looked down at her hands. They were scratched and bloody, resting on top of scratched and bloody legs. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“I was with my boyfriend. Link was taking me to this little romantic place by the lake. He’s good to me like that. Or, he was.” She paused. Stephanie patted her arm. “We hadn’t been listening to the radio until we saw all the traffic. It was too late to turn back, but he saw a side road and went for it. He really wanted us have that vacation. Anyways, another car came out of nowhere and hit us. We flipped over. I was so scarred. We both got out and went to check on the other car. They attacked us!” She trembled.
“But you made it out ok.” Stephanie said.
“Link fought off the guy that was grabbing him. He saw a gun and shot him in the leg, but the guy didn’t stop. He sounded like a hungry animal. He shot the arm of the man grabbing me and she let go. I ran around the car to get behind Link. Oh God, they chased us! He shot them so many times but they kept attacking until he hit them in the head. He pulled another gun off of the passenger, and shoved it into my hands. When other people started coming toward us, we knew they wanted to hurt us. He ordered me to hide in our car, and I did. That was the last time I saw him alive,” She sniffed.
Stephanie pulled her into a hug. “You’re not alone,” She whispered. “Most of us have lost someone to this already,”
“But what is it? Why did they attack us like that? Why didn’t shooting them stop them?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think anyone really knows.”
“Is this why the military is here?”
“Yes. They were sent here to protect us.”
“Then they must have some idea what this is,”
“If they do, they aren’t telling. It wouldn’t help knowing now, though.”
Stephanie hugged her again. “But that whole Special Forces team was cute, wasn’t it?” She said, winking.
Steph couldn’t help herself. She laughed, but the reality of just losing the love of her life was too much, and it stifled the humor.
All this time, with the soldiers, with Stephanie holding her hand, no one noticed the blood on her lips, or her increasingly bad cough.
It had been hours since she had said good-bye but she could still taste him on her lips. Not even her violent scrubbing in the bathroom could remove his blood, or the blood on her wounds. Blood that wasn’t altogether hers. It was already in her already flowing through her veins and mouth, spreading.
The pain wasn’t bad at first, she hardly noticed it, but soon it was worse than anything she could have imagined. She writhed, screaming, on the floor. The people around her edged back in fear, contemplating running.
“What’s wrong with her?” Someone asked.
“Oh, God, she’s sick!” Someone else shrieked.
Those two small words started a stampede. People bolted for the door. An employee locked himself in the break room behind the counter.
Steph stopped moving, falling silent as her vision went black.
Everything was different. The first thing she noticed was that she wasn’t in pain anymore. She couldn’t feel anything at all, not even the broken bottle she accidently cut her hand open on when she got up. The shards dug deeply into her palm and fingers, but she didn’t feel it. She didn’t feel her fingers grasp the pieces as she pulled them out.
“Hello?” She tried to call. It came out a short moan.
‘Where was everybody?’
She shuffled to the door, unsure of her feet which were completely numb. She stumbled a few times, catching herself on the shelves, scattering food everywhere.
‘When was the last time I ate?’ She asked herself.
She was hungry, but the food around her looked and smelled disgusting. She wanted something else. She wanted meat. Raw meat.
Steph found her way out the front door, instincts telling her to head right, away from her overturned car. There were more cars to the right. They would all be facing her, and all full of meat.
They weren’t. They were mostly empty. She had walked for so long. She was starving. She had almost given up hope when she was someone quivering in the back seat of a car.
Without thinking, she fumbled with the handle. The door was locked.
She slammed a loose fist through the window. The person inside shrieked. Steph latched onto them with both hands, dragging them out and onto the pavement. They caught briefly on the window frame but quickly pulled free. She didn’t care if it was a man, woman, or child. She just wanted to eat.
When they had stopped kicking and screaming, and when she had had her fill, she staggered to her feet and walked on. She didn’t know what she was looking for, she just knew she had to keep moving. It was out there.
Soon she was hungry again. She searched more cars. The people she found were already dead. They wouldn’t taste right.
She tripped, landing face first on the asphalt. When she looked back to see what she had tripped over, she almost did a double take.
“Link,” This sounded more like a word than anything she’d tried to say since she came- to.
“Steph,” He said. It sounded like a groan, but was clear enough to understand.
It was him. It was really him.
“I thought you were dead,” She said, touching his face.
“I thought you were too. I woke up and I couldn’t find you.” He pulled her into a hug over the half eaten body. “Eat,” He said when he caught her staring down at it.
‘So, so hungry,’
A part of her wondered why she was eating human flesh, but most of her was too hungry to care. Lincoln was alive, and they were back together. That’s what really mattered.
As they devoured what was left in front of them, Steph couldn’t help sneaking glances at Link. He was really there. He was alive!
“We should walk up there,” He said, pointing up a small side road when they had finished.
“Why?” She asked.
“It’s right,” He said.
Steph shrugged and followed. His logic was as good as hers.
“You and me, Steph.Just you and me.” He said, throwing an arm around her.
“You’re so romantic. Candlelight, a bear skin rug, ‘oh darling, could you pass the legs?’” She laughed.
He kissed her. It was the first time they had kissed and not felt something, anything, rise up. To heat, no passion, no little sparks. They just felt . . . cold.
It was morning when they reached a cabin. Steph hung back, chasing after a squirrel while Link ate his in full view of the windows. There might be meat in that cabin, but they couldn’t wait that long. They were hungry.
Link finished his food and walked up to a back window.
“Is anyone in there?” He asked in his groaning voice. He tapped the glass.
“Maybe they can’t understand you,” Steph said quietly.
He acknowledged her comment, and moved on to another side of the cabin, his hand trailing along the wood.
“Hello?” He called.
Steph followed him from the trees. If they were like those people in the car, she didn’t want to get close.
When he got to the front, someone started shouting. Then she heard a blast as Link was propelled backward. He landed hard. Steph nearly screamed. She tried to run to him, but her feet wouldn’t move fast enough. Her legs were tangled in bushes, trapping her out of sight.
She watched in horror as he rolled over, a teenage girl standing over him in the now open doorway. He asked her to put it down, to stop, but she yelled over him. He grabbed her leg and pulled, wanting to take the gun away. The girl kicked him in the face. Steph’s stomach rolled.
The girl latched onto the gun she had dropped, and shot Link in the face. He didn’t move.
Steph worked as hard as she could to free herself from the plant, kicking and pulling. It wasn’t until the girl had left with her friends that she had stumbled out from the trees, almost running to Link’s side.
He was gone.
Steph roared a string of swears, her body shaking in dry tears.
She couldn’t look at his face. It wasn’t there to look at.
She had lost the love of her life for a second time in twenty-four hours.
That girl was going to pay. Steph would rip her apart and eat every last bit of her if it was the last thing she did.
She had heard them call her ‘Jo’, which was a strange name for a girl, but it didn’t matter. She was going to destroy her. She just had to follow them. They would stop eventually.
Steph stumbled after them back to the main road. They were driving slowly, making their way through the cars. She couldn’t move fast enough. The truck she could smell them in was vanishing down the road.
She had to keep following. She was so hungry. She couldn’t let that girl get away with killing Link.
A loud bang echoed in her ears and she fell forward, hitting the ground. Looking behind her, she saw a shaking woman holding a gun in a trembling hand.
Maybe if she had a bite, she’d be able to move faster.
The woman crept closer, her whole body shaking like a leaf. Steph tried to sit up, and the woman aimed the gun at her head. Everything went black.
Some part of her knew she was finally, totally, dead. She couldn’t see, and she couldn’t hear, but she could feel Link next to her, his hand in hers.
They may have been dead and gone from this earth, from the life they knew, but they were together again.
Thank you for reading!
If you enjoyed reading this short story, please consider leaving a review and/or reading these other works:
Tonight The World Dies: A horror novel about four friends in the zombie apocalypse.
Watch The World Burn: Prequel to Tonight The World Dies, and includes the scene that inspired this short story
The Vomica: A new kind of zombie horror/fantasy involving magic, witches, werewolves, and zombies.
Novel Hearts: Released by Write More Publications, featuring this story, and other stories from several great authors.
These books can all be found on amazon dot com, and other retailers, and all but The Vomica are/will be available on Shakespir.
Set in the world of, and including characters in, Watch The World Burn by Amber White, Hungry tells the story of one woman's frightening experience during the zombie apocalypse and her subsequent turning. Does love remain after death? What does a zombie think about? Read on to find out.